The rivers are rising as spring arrives in the Rocky Mountain West. In the annual pattern that sustains the environment and much of the economy of this region, water generated from melting snow feeds the streams, soaks the soil, and is diverted into ditches and reservoirs to serve millions of people and water their landscape. Here at the crown of the continent, the snowcapped peaks are far more than a pretty picture -- they are an interest-bearing savings account we draw on throughout the year.
Unfortunately, the principal of this account is being depleted by the increasingly obvious impacts of global climate change. Even this winter's abundant snowfall fails to overcome decades-long trends of increased temperatures and altered patterns of precipitation and spring runoff. The latest documentation of these impacts is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Water Program Strategy: Response to Climate Change.